By Ellson Quismorio
Opposition senatorial bet Magdalo Party-List Rep. Gary Alejano is prodding the Duterte administration to “do its job and protect Filipino fishermen.”
Alejano was reacting to a recent report that the Chinese Coast Guard has driven away a Philippine commercial fishing vessel from the Panatag Shoal.
“It is the government’s responsibility to ensure the welfare and safety of their citizens. Hence, they should immediately act on this incident,” stated the former Marine captain.
“The government should file the appropriate diplomatic actions against China’s continuing intimidation of our fishermen. Wala ng ibang gagawa nito para sa ating mga Pilipino kundi ang ating gobyerno (Nobody else can do this for our countrymen except our government),” he pointed out.
According to reports, members of the Chinese Coast Guard came with their sirens blaring and encircled the Philippine fishing vessel. According to witnesses, the crew of the Philippine vessel talked with the Chinese Coast Guard before steering their vessel away from the shoal.
Malacañang only responded to the issue by demanding proof of the harassment of Chinese Coast against Filipino fishermen. Alejano slammed this order, saying that the burden of proof should not be on the Filipino fishermen.
“Hindi ‘yan trabaho ng mga mangingisda. Trabaho ‘yan ng gobyerno (That’s not the duty of the fishermen. That’s the government’s duty). It is the mandate of the government to reach out to the affected communities, to know the real situation on the ground, and act on the illegal actions of Chinese forces. Otherwise, that is negligence of duty,” said the “Otso Diretso” candidate.
Improve communications with fishermen
Alejano suggested that the current administration adopt a strategy that would provide specific policies or guidelines for our fishermen on the proper conduct in Panatag Shoal as well as the other areas in the West Philippine Sea.
He likewise batted for the provision of the latest communication equipment for the fishermen as well as the establishment of a reporting mechanism so that incidents of harassment could be immediately reported.
“The government should put in place guidelines or rules of engagement in order to ensure the welfare and safety of our fishermen. This is not waging war. This is protecting our people,” the opposition lawmaker said.
“Nananawagan ako sa ating gobyerno na tulungan, suportahan, at ipagtanggol ang karapatan ng ating mga mangingisda. Hindi lang ito usapin ng kanilang kabuhayan ngunit usapin din ito ng sapat na suplay ng pagkain para sa buong bayan,” Alejano concluded.
(I appeal to our government to help, support, and defend the rights of our fishermen. This issue is not only about their livelihood, but about maintaining ample food supply for the entire nation.)